A Tale of Two Cities: 8th-10th February 2001

A musical with book, music and lyrics by Jill Santoriello based on the 1859 novel of the same name by Charles Dickens.

This production was entered into the Gloucestershire Drama Association’s Full Length Play Competition 2001.
It won:
Second Runner-up to Best Play
Best Set Design

“We all enjoyed taking part in this production – including those of us who lost their heads! Richard Hughes built a stunning guillotine and Jane Amherst fashioned some very convincing, life size papier-mâché model heads.  Pete Lines crouched behind the guillotine and poked the heads with a stick so they fell into the basket at exactly the right moment.  We knew this had created the desired effect as there was a scream from the audience on the falling.”

Janet Lines as a peasant, seamstress, and Gorgon’s Head dancer

“Another show that I was involved in was A Tale of Two Cities. I remember that there was a huge demand on the lighting and scenery, set changes and costumes. This is where the camaraderie of experiencing Amateur Dramatics comes into its own. Everyone pulling together, the costume designer, lighting staff, musicians, director, actors, props staff need to come together and unite to pull off such a show and we did it! A hugely memorable time for me, once again under the phenomenal directorship of Richard Hughes.”

Pip Devine as Jenny Cruncher and a peasant

Full GDA adjudication:
I found this choice of musical theatre most interesting. I have not come across it before and would have liked some more background information about it merely for my own interest and education. I think it was a most challenging and brave idea to undertake the production and I was glad I had heard your directors interview on Radio Gloucestershire. I could not help feeling that the play owed something to Les Miserables, did you? My chief concern about the structure of the play was no comedy input – apart from tiny parts involving chorus in the Wine Shop and with Miss Pross. Even the greatest tragedies have some comedy – cf Shakespeare!
I cannot fault your presentation and your set was masterfully designed. You were able to move from scene to scene and country to country using your basic set and lighting with no problems at all. You had the minimum of furniture, which gave the space you needed for chorus work and saved constant scene shifting. You included within this a good but a minimum number of levels which were used to the best advantage. The overall impact of your set was dramatic. I admired the flags which were never obtrusively lit but served to direct your audience and kept the continuity of the play. The whole production moved smoothly and at a good pace throughout. Your Stage Manager, his assistant and all back stage staff did a splendid job. What scenery and props there were, were speedily and silently shifted on, and off in blackout every time. You really were kept on the move all through the production. Great team work. I am quite sure that you know how good and practical your set was. I do not feel that I can comment in any more depth; I believe that when you have arrived, as it were, you know yourself – and you must do! I only add congratulations.
Congratulations to Lighting Director and Technicians. You created some amazing lighting effects which completed the presentation of this production. I would highlight but a few for the overall results were very good indeed. The amazing silhouettes on the cyclorama were quite stunning and eerie, The effects at the end of Act I Storming the Bastille were most effective and not only complemented the action but gave it the essential quality it needed. The light on Madame Defarges as she was dying was quite moving. It is difficult to mention all your changes which were not only designed brilliantly but executed so efficiently – there is a difference! (I know from experience). The only minor problem I had was spotlight on individual characters singing/speaking down stage and small groups down stage left; minor comment really when I consider your overall standard. I congratulate you most sincerely on your total achievement.
I imagine quite some research went into your costume design and it certainly showed. They were all well chosen and the aristocratic garments were splendid with peasants garments suitably roughed up. Were you also responsible for making them? I congratulate you most warmly.
Not a great deal was needed – good. The Marquis had an amazing visage! which was right and so well done. Good idea to have masks in the Ballroom scene, this enabled characters to double up with speed, Well done. Wips were excellent and well worn, however, I found some of the ladies hair to be a touch monotonous! In a way I understand why you chose to have it worn the way it was but I did feel that there could have been more variety in styles. I was particularly irritated by the English Court Usher – I did think her hair could have been quickly tied back. Perhaps I’ve just got a thing about lanky hair – sorry!
I congratulate your Musical Director and her assistants most warmly for their ingenious
arrangement and production of the orchestra together with appropriate accompaniment. Modern technology is certainly amazing especially to the uninitiated! I am supposing that your MD was also responsible for training and rehearsing all singing? Suffice it to say that as this show is, in my estimation, more a musical piece than any other, then this department carried the brunt of the production and in this they did not fail in any way at all. A splendid performance. Thank you.
I wonder if the Director was responsible for your choreography? There is no programme credit given. Splendid team work – vigour, accuracy and style in every number. Each chorus member made the dance look effortless which is of course the secret of any sport well done. I found many of your routines moving and always pertinent to the mood of the moment. Bastille scene was particularly well created and performed. Many congratulations to all involved.
Sound effects were very well devised, recorded and delivered, setting and maintaining just the right atmosphere at all times. Research here too was an additional bonus to your production.
You undertook to direct and produce quite a different piece of theatre and for most of us an unknown quantity. I admire your courage! You clearly were attracted by the challenge this undertaking presented and you succeeded in bringing it off magnificently producing an all round piece of musical theatre.
I know you to be an experienced Director and you have built up a great company of dedicated and talented members. All of this was quite evident from the moment your production opened. You too, were responsible for the overall design of the set which was, as I have said, quite splendid in its simplicity and versatility. At no time did I have any doubt or fear that this was not a totally rehearsed and intelligently understood historical piece of drama, your whole cast and crew were in safe hands and clearly trusted you implicitly. I think too, that your research was evident, essential I believe for this type of production and you clearly enthused your cast. The fact that you designed your own set paid dividends too, for you probably did this with total vision in mind? For this reason your direction at all times was excellent. I do not feel it necessary to comment on individual scenes, suffice it to say that the whole production moved expertly from scene to scene with no problems. Your flags explained place of action so that your audience could tell exactly where they were, the pace never Nagged or dragged. Considering the fact that there is very little light relief in the whole play you did a great job and I congratulate you most sincerely.
I see from your cast list that many of your actors took more than one part. With a large cast, plus chorus, this is obviously inevitable. I do, therefore, praise everyone in your company for the way in which you handled the constant changeovers.
I have always believed the Chorus to be the most important ingredient of any musical show, for the role and imput is critical to the success of the whole. In this production your Chorus work, singing, dancing, movement, concentration with total involvement on whichever side of the Channel you found yourselves, was of the highest order. I noted particularly the young players in this connection.
Additional parts small and larger were undertaken splendidly and there was never any confusion for the audience. I do congratulate all of you. You did a great Job most efficiently and believably. Well done.
A strong and dedicated performance. You sustained your character throughout with an undeniable depth of understanding, which could not have been easy at times? When your battle was ostensibly won, the horror of your last intended act of retribution was indeed disturbing and you really gripped us with your total dedication to what you believed. The gradual disintegration of your marriage was very well handled and portrayed. Singing and movement were good at all times. This part must have proved a great challenge and I congratulate your on your interpretation. Thank you.
A well sustained character throughout the play. You were quite believable as the husband to such a wife! You gained sympathy more and more as the story unfolded and your final scene with Madame was very moving and well sung. You provided the perfect contrast to your partner without appearing weak or wimpish. An intelligent and very sound performance. Well done indeed.
This was a reliable performance which grew in stature as the role became more demanding. You could perhaps have shown just a touch more overt sex appeal towards Lucie, although she would have undoubtedly assumed you a safer bet than Carton! Your character was atypically devised for this type of play and you did what you could with it in an exemplary manner. Good.
You looked every inch the character and from your entrance made yourself clearly understood. You were meant to be the archetypal aristocrat and that you undoubtedly managed. Your horrendous attitude during the Ballroom scene was very well portrayed. You made it possible for us all to side with the revolutionaries. An unpleasant role to play but you did it with dignity. I see you fitted into the Chorus too! Well done.
As well as portraying this character you certainly had your work cut out on both sides! Well done. It is only from studying the programme that I have discovered how much you had to do, A dedicated all round performance. Good.
More than one role for you too. Well done. I found your portrayal of the bereaved father very touching in Act 1 and it also helped tremendously to get the story going so that further in-depth explanation was unnecessary. Thank you, a most moving cameo piece.
Very well played by this young actor. I had noticed you in the Chorus before your untimely death and admired your total involvement in singing and moving. You played dead exceptionally well without even a twitch of a muscle! Very good, not an easy thing to do. I hope you continue to be involved with Drama. Congratulations.
A good performance and betrayal of a somewhat hopeless and aimless yet undeniably clever and attractive man. I think you gained audience sympathy almost immediately for you were in the real world in spite of your self inflicted inadequacies. Unrequited love can often prove somewhat boring on stage but you avoided this and as your inner strength grew into action you carried yourself forward convincingly. You handled your more drunken moments very well, not an easy thing to do on stage. Congratulations on an all round interpretation of this character.
Another reliable and thoughtful performance and character interpretation. Your opening scene was well and sympathetically handled and you managed to show your recuperation most believably once back in England. Your relationship with Lucie and subsequently with Darnay was well enacted and you never went too far on either count. Good. Your bearing was excellent on all occasions. Well done.
A sound portrayal of this character. You managed to dig out of the script all that you could and your scene with Sydney was very touching and well conducted. You handled the delicate situation which existed very well indeed. I enjoyed your performance. Thank you.
You made the most that you could of this character and I suppose you were the only person able to add any touch of humour to the whole, however fleetingly it appeared. Good!
You again had several roles as well as named character part to cope with, all of which you undertook with energy and conviction. Good.
You looked very pretty and every inch the daughter and grand-daughter of this family. It was fun to see you playing’ with Uncle Sydney and you acted so well when “Daddy” was marched off to the guillotine. I hope you will continue in your Drama work. Congratulations you did very well.
I have already mentioned your Chorus work so I would just re-iterate how very well every member took on small parts in addition to their singing and dancing and general crowd scenes. Your whole company displayed excellent team work throughout the show and are to be congratulated most sincerely. If I have failed to acknowledge any member of the cast or crew I apologize but I take the view that your team work was paramount without which this show could never have succeeded in the way it did.

Watch the full production here